February 7, 2015, Belem, Brazil — Today’s saliva-worthy bird was a Black-chested Tyrant, which Alex spotted mid-morning as we wandered down a dirt road outside Belem. The Black-chested Tyrant is a weird, beautiful flycatcher that lives only in northeast South America, and few people have seen it. The bird was essentially unknown in life (except for a few specimens) until about 2003, when its sound was first recorded. Since then, people have figured out its call, which makes it easier to find, but it’s still rare. You can read most of what is known about this bird in a species account that Alex and Nargila wrote recently for Cornell.
I also found out today where Brazil nuts come from. They grow on tall trees in globe-shaped pods about the size of softballs, which each contain about 20 nuts. The pods fall like meteors, so standing under a Brazil nut tree isn’t a very good idea. And you should never use a Brazil nut pod as a cup: A type of poison dart frog lays its eggs in half-pods that have collected rain, so drinking from one can be fatal.
In early afternoon we were driving toward another patch of forest when Alex spied an interesting-looking roadkill on the highway and pulled a U-turn to get a better look. We parked on the shoulder and dodged traffic to walk across the center line, and found a jaguarundi, a type of small wild cat native to South and Central America, lying on the pavement in the opposite lane. It had clearly been hit minutes before. The sight of two gringos and a jaguarundi attracted attention, and pretty soon a small crowd had gathered in the road. Some people carried the cat to the shoulder and then asked us if it was still alive (clearly not). We took some photos and moved on, not having the proper permits to collect the carcass.
It’s been fantastic to hang out with Alex and Nargila for four days around Belem. In recent years they have made countless ornithological discoveries in this region, which remains relatively unexplored, and I have benefited hugely from all that knowledge! Tomorrow I fly out early toward Bahia, a state in east-central Brazil, where I will spend my last several days in this mega-diverse country. The more I see of Brazil, the more I realize that I am only scratching its surface.
New birds today: 23
Year list: 911